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NEWS FEATURE: Billy Graham’s daughter is her own woman

c. 1997 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Anne Graham Lotz doesn’t want to be known as Billy Graham’s daughter. Though she is proud of her family heritage, she’d rather be known, she said, as a messenger from God.”I’ve had people express disappointment after I’ve spoken because I haven’t told family stories … so sometimes that’s […]

c. 1997 Religion News Service

WASHINGTON _ Anne Graham Lotz doesn’t want to be known as Billy Graham’s daughter. Though she is proud of her family heritage, she’d rather be known, she said, as a messenger from God.”I’ve had people express disappointment after I’ve spoken because I haven’t told family stories … so sometimes that’s hard,”she said in a recent interview here.”Because I think, you know, I’m here giving a message from my heavenly father and you want to know sort of curiosity things about my earthly father.” But those who have heard Lotz say she holds her own as a preacher.”Maybe the initial opening of the door is because of her father, but once she’s in, it’s all Anne,”said Melanie Beroth, spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, which chose Lotz as the closing speaker of an event that drew 19,000 women to a Nashville arena in September.

At 49, Lotz travels the country and the world expounding on the Bible, but makes it home each Sunday to attend her Southern Baptist church with her husband, Danny.

The self-described”Bible expositor”urges Christians to have a”fresh vision”of Jesus and preaches Bible basics to non-Christians. When she gives altar calls, inviting people to become Christians after her sermon, hundreds have come forward at sites ranging from Nashville to India.

Lotz said she doesn’t want people to pay attention to her, but rather to God.”I don’t want to be known for who I am,”she said.”When I speak, I want people to hear God speaking to them through the message, through his word.” In fact, she prefers speaking to groups of people over the course of several sessions, which allows them to get past her identity and to focus on the topic at hand.

After Lotz spoke recently at the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, she autographed copies of her new book,”The Glorious Dawn of God’s Story: Finding Meaning for Your Life in Genesis”(Word).

Bob Moore, a church planting strategist with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, proudly showed off his autographed copy.

Moore said he and his wife”were both so blessed”when they attended a weeklong Bible study led by Lotz at a Southern Baptist conference center a few years ago. Others received Lotz just as warmly, he said.”It was the talk of the whole week,”Moore said.”Everybody was saying, `Did you hear Anne?'””Listen to me!”Lotz urged in her 50-minute sermon to delegates to the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, often pointing her hands in the air.”Do you understand that the basic, bottom-line, primary problem is just sin? … If the basic problem is sin than the basic solution is a savior.” A rustle of”amens”arose from the crowd of more than 200 men and women in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington.

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Lotz’s focus on the fundamentals of her faith also permeates her new book on the Book of Genesis.

She believes that if the principles in the first book of the Bible were followed by everyone _”I’m not talking about Christians now. I’m talking about everybody”_ the world would be better off.”Everything that’s happening, all the breakdown in the home and relationships and right on through, you can trace it to the fact they’re not following God’s principles laid down in the first 11 chapters,”she said in the interview.

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Lotz began her ministry in 1976 by affiliating with Bible Study Fellowship, an international organization that offers Bible classes around the globe.

In 1988, she felt called to start her own ministry, which she calls AnGeL Ministries, using the initials of her name. She’s the sole speaker for the Raleigh, N.C.-based organization, which also offers tapes and devotional study books.”There are no other angels,”she said with deadpan humor.”One day I’d like to have a host of ’em.” But the name of the ministry is intentional.”Angels in Scripture were messengers of God,”she said.”I go wherever he sends me.” Not everyone is enthusiastic about Lotz’s appearances in pulpits, particularly before mixed audiences of men and women.

The Rev. Tim Bayly, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, believes the”biblical norm”is that only men have the authority to preach to mixed groups of men and women. Women may only preach to women, he said.”If our position on women in authority in the church is scriptural, it applies equally, regardless of who the person is, and that because she is Billy Graham’s daughter doesn’t remove her from the strictures of Scripture,”Bayly said from his office in Libertyville, Ill.

Lotz said she realizes that everyone doesn’t agree with her preaching role _ one church where she held a Bible class for 500 women asked her to leave _ but she says she only goes where she is invited.

When she spoke at a statewide interdenominational meeting of ministers in the early years of her independent ministry, Lotz found herself facing the backs of some clergy who turned their chairs around when she was speaking.”That’s when I began to really pray and ask the Lord to settle it in my heart,”she said.”He just took me to the Scriptures and showed me so that in my heart I’m at peace and I can stand in the pulpit very confidently.” She refers to the Gospels of Matthew and John as examples of her scriptural counsel. In those accounts, the resurrected Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to give a message to his disciples.”She was a woman and he was sending her to tell all these men her personal testimony, the risen Christ,”Lotz said.

Lotz said she hopes for mutual respect from those who disagree with her decision to preach.”I respect people’s opinions, especially from somebody like (Bayly) who I’m sure has researched it, looked carefully into God’s word and come up with his own conclusions,”she said.”But I also want to be respected for the fact that I have thought about it carefully, prayed it through, feel like from Scripture God has shown me something different and I just agree to disagree with them.” Lotz said her parents are also on her side.

Billy Graham, who Lotz calls”my daddy,”has introduced his daughter _ one of five children _ as the”best preacher in the family”at two international evangelism events.

When he introduced her in the mid-1990s at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in North Carolina, he said,”Well, I brought my big Bible with me tonight, because when I go to hear Anne I have to have an extra big Bible because God has taught her the Scriptures and God has given her a gift of teaching and preaching and evangelism as well as Bible teaching that’s very rare.” (STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL TRIM FOLLOWS.)

Lotz said her mother _ Ruth Bell Graham _ at first was”dead set”against her daughter becoming a Bible teacher because she feared it would detract from her child-rearing duties. But she later became a great supporter when she saw Lotz’s children _ now 27, 25 and 23 _ were”well-behaved and happy,”Lotz said.

In addition to her own ministry, Lotz has served on the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) the last few years. She contentedly views herself in a supporting role to her father and brother, Franklin, BGEA first vice-chairman and eventual successor to her father, BGEA chairman and CEO.

Lotz, a self-described private person uncomfortable in the celebrity spotlight, said she has personally chosen not to be ordained.

While the Southern Baptist Convention is on record opposing the ordination of women, some individual Southern Baptist churches, which are autonomous, have chosen to ordain women.

Although Lotz feels other women may be called in that manner, she said,”I feel like the Lord would not have me do that.” Yet, she doesn’t mind that she may be a role model for others.”My message is not to put women in the pulpit, but if that happens and through that somebody else can serve God in the way God called her, then I’d be glad,”she said.

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